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Landscaping, signage tweaks hope to soften Skyline School’s look

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The Skyline School signage will be replaced and additional plantings will cover frontage walls.
(Karen Billing)

The Solana Beach School District (SBSD) is taking steps to soften and freshen up Skyline School, making the newly completed Lomas Santa Fe campus more welcoming and inviting.The school board is set to approve landscaping and signage enhancements next month, ideas that were the result of a community engagement group called “Growing into our New School Building.”

SBSD Vice President Rich Leib said the work was prompted after several people complained to him about the way the building looked and that it did not fit the Solana Beach community.

“It was something that hit pretty hard when the building was completed,” Leib said of the school that opened last fall. “I think there was some good input from the community and I think the next phase will make some changes that will be positive.”

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The front entrance to Skyline School. Courtesy

The community engagement group started about five weeks ago, facilitated by Executive Director of Capital Programs and Technology Caroline Brown and Leigh Kyle, a partner from Spurlock Landscape Architects.

Board member Debra Schade said that Skyline’s classrooms and interior spaces are “unbelievable,” however, it has a very different look from the front as they built a very safe school.

“The explosion of life on the inside of the campus needs to be expressed on the outside,” Kyle said.

Kyle said they plan to make the entry look more welcoming and soft and enhance the planting design that is already on the campus, reflecting Solana Beach’s coastal blues, yellows and greens, grasses, flowering sages and succulents.There were requests from the community to match the “amazing” colors in the median of Lomas Santa Fe but as Kyle noted there are some challenges to overcome—they want the plant palette to be seasonal and bold but not too bold that it causes pollen and other allergens or attracts bees.

Kyle said a number of people commented that there were no trees in front of the building—she stressed that there are trees but they are still small and deciduous, come fall she expects there will be more color.

“The color and lushness of the tree canopy will take time to develop,” Kyle said.

As part of the enhancements, Kyle has proposed red trumpet vines on the courtyard walls, “a lovely, easy improvement to make” and creeping fig vines on the brick walls.

The new plantings are expected to cost $3,408.

During the process, there were also many comments that the signage did not look right.

The Skyline School sign is not the same font, height or size as the two signs marking the administration building and theater. The Skyline School sign is also the only curvature feature on the frontage—comments were that it was low, lopsided and that the arch looks “more like a frown than a rainbow”.

Currently the arched sign frames a niche that includes a lock box and gas meter—“the niche is begging for some type of public art treatment,” Kyle said.

Kyle has proposed making the school sign a blue color rather than simple black and pin-mounting the letters so they don’t sit flat against the wall. The board is considering options to back-light the letters, which range in cost from $14,460 to $24,450 for LED lighting with silhouette letters.

At the workshops, there was also lots of discussion about painting the school or the shade structures—Kyle said they did not recommend painting the exterior masonry finish due to the coastal environment and maintenance costs.

Phase two’s work will include the plantings and signing while the district will pursue fundraising opportunities for phase three, which includes the opportunity for public art installations. Leib said the signage upgrades could also be a part of the fundraising effort.

The district will send out requests for proposals for local artists to pitch ideas for the niche area in front, the gray box bike lockers as well as opportunities for the black fence on Lomas Santa Fe.

Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger said she would like to involve the city and community in deciding what they want for those artistic elements as they hope the school will truly be a centerpiece of Solana Beach on Lomas Santa Fe.